Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Are A Look In Your Eye, A Dream Passing By In The Sky

Torchwood creator Russell Davies has revealed more details about the upcoming fourth series. He told Collider that the eradication of all forms of death will lead to a global crisis in the new ten-part run, subtitled Miracle Day. 'The possibility of death ceases to exist,' he explained. 'That's great news for some people, but globally it becomes a problem. That's what the whole [series] is about. It's an instant overnight population boom where, suddenly, the Earth relies on people dying.' He added: 'Suddenly you've got a crisis affecting everyone on the planet. That's where the Torchwood team and our brand new characters come in.' Discussing the new cast members, Davies claimed that the decision to kill off regular characters in the past has helped to keep the show fresh. 'A lot of more straightforward science fiction shows on big networks get a cast of twelve, and they are all under contract for seven years, so they all stay with you for seven years,' he suggested. 'Torchwood was always at a high body count because I think it makes the story stronger and more dangerous and more frightening. You cannot guarantee who will survive, and I think that raises the stakes for everyone.' Oh, and before anyone asks, no, they're not bringing Ianto back.

New episodes of three of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite US series were broadcast this week. Of the three, Lie To Me's Saved was the best: a precise - and rather moving, if (as usual) logically implausible - essay on guilt which guest starred The X-Files' Annabeth Gish. The much-awaited episode of House introducing Cuddy's family, Larger Than Life, featured a brutally over-the-top performance by Candice Bergan as most people's idea of the potential future ex-mother-in-law from Hell and a rather paper-thin 'disease of the week' conceit about a musician (played by Matthew Lillard) who puts his life on the line to save a stranger who fell onto subway tracks, emerged unscathed, then suddenly collapsed. Meanwhile, Hawaii Five-0 managed to produce its worst episode so far - He Kane Hewa'ole - in what has, to date, been a pretty impressive debut series. Starting off with the brilliant, if wholly unoriginal, conceit of the discovery of a severed head in a cardboard box, it quickly developed into a rather melodramatic kidnap plot whose twist even the densest viewer could see coming a mile away. And, annoyingly, far sooner than either Steve or Danno could! It was nice to see the great Reiko Aylesworth turn up as Chin's ex-wife, though.

In total BBC iPlayer received one hundred and forty five million requests for TV and radio programmes in December, including both online platforms and devices and BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media TV. This was a month-on-month increase of three per cent, with requests up an outrageous twenty seven per cent year-on-year, setting another new monthly record for the service. Top Gear (the Middle East and USA specials) topped the most popular TV list this month, with The Apprentice in third place. Comedy and drama continued to perform well, in particular the new series Come Fly with Me and Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol. On the radio side, the Test Match Special coverage of Day Five and Day Four of the second test at The Ashes topped the charts, pulling in one hundred and fifty nine thousand and one hundred and fifty six thousand requests respectively. Other notable radio shows in the top ten included Manchester United's Premier League clash with Arsenal on 13 December (one hundred and nineteen thousand) and Richard Bacon's coverage of the 2018 World Cup decision (eighty four thousand). 'These figures are a fantastic way to start the new year and I'm looking forward to building on these while we continue to evolve and improve BBC iPlayer,' said Daniel Danker, the BBC's general manager of programmes and on-demand.
BBC iPlayer - most requested episodes per series for December
01 Top Gear - USA Road Trip - 1,294,000
02 The Apprentice - series six episode twelve - 892,000
03 Come Fly With Me - episode one - 783,000
04 Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol - 716,000
05 EastEnders 25 Dec 2010 - 610,000
06 The Royal Variety Performance 2010 - 595,000
07 Michael McIntyre: Hello Wembley! - 590,000
08 Russell Howard's Good News - series three episode eight - 583,000
09 Mock the Week - series nine Christmas Compilation - 462,000
10 Merlin - series three episode thirteen - 451,000
11 Miranda - series two episode four - 389,000
12 Never Mind the Buzzcocks - series twenty four episode seven - 356,000
13 CBeebies Panto - 331,000
14 The Royle Family - Joe's Crackers - 324,000
15 Qi - series eight episode eleven - 319,000
16 Dara O'Briain Live at the Theatre Royal - 314,000
17 Live at the Apollo - series six episode four - 310,000
18 The World's Strictest Parents - series three episode ten - 298,000
19 Panorama - Addicted to Games? - 291,000
20 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - 291,000
So - much to the probable pain of hippies, Communists and Daily Scum Mail readers with their sick agendas - from an overnight rating of 6.4m, the Boxing Day episode of Top Gear ended up with a weekly 'reach' audience of over twelve million viewers - 6.84m (BBC2) + 0.84m (HD) + 2.99m (BBC2 Repeat) + 0.20m (HD Repeat) + 1.26m (iPlayer). Yer Keith Telly Topping laughed, and he laughed and he laughed, until he bastard-well stopped. And then, he laughed some more. The BBC's new 'LIVE Plus 7' ratings data is going to be fascinating once it starts being fully reported later this year don't you think, dear blog reader?

Consultants hired by ITV's new chief executive, Adam Crozier, apparently recommended cutting the broadcaster's early evening news bulletins in half – and introducing a cheap game show to fill in the gap in the schedule. McKinsey proposed that ITV's national news bulletin – which goes out at 6.30pm and lasts thirty minutes – should be reduced to fifteen minutes and run immediately after a shortened fifteen-minute regional bulletin. ITV's programme-makers were asked if they could develop or buy a game show costing thirty thousand pounds an episode to fill the half-hour slot from 6.30pm – the sort of budget traditionally used to fill daytime slots. The consultants' scheme – aimed at slashing ITV's early evening programming costs – immediately prompted a row behind the scenes, reportedly triggering opposition from insiders at ITV and ITN, the broadcaster's news provider. ITV's early evening news is its most successful news bulletin, regularly attracting about four million viewers and achieving an above-average twenty per cent audience share. Insiders are said to be afraid that the audience for a fifteen-minute bulletin could tumble – while there was no guarantee that a game show would prove to be anywhere near as popular. Another option - still allegedly under debate - would see the 6pm hour of national and regional news combined in a form of the old BBC Nationwide, which magazine-style format has partly inspired BBC1's 7pm success The ONE Show. It is not clear if either proposal will be taken up following the internal discussions, with one ITV source indicating that the plan to cut back the news bulletin appeared to be 'losing traction.' An ITV spokesman said it was considering a lot of proposals. The McKinsey review was delivered to Crozier in November. However, decisions about what to do next have yet to be made, let alone announced, and are not expected until next month at the earliest. The key issue for ITV remains the sixty million pounds-a-year cost of regional news rather than the national news service. ITV wishes to continue regional news but does not want to carry the financial burden. The debate, which has dominated the past six years at the broadcaster, continues, while the long-term financial viability of the alternative local city TV service championed by the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt, remains unclear.

EastEnders 'bosses' were forced to think of an 'inventive' way to continue Bianca Jackson's current storyline after Patsy Palmer gave birth early according to the Digital Spy website. Producers at the BBC soap faced a problem in December after Palmer welcomed the arrival of her fourth child, Bertie, almost a month before he was due. Bertie's early arrival came as Palmer was about to film a number of explosive scenes focusing on a showdown between Bianca and her loved ones, sparked by the revelation of her mother Carol's secret relationship with Connor Stanley. Speaking in a new interview with Hello magazine, Palmer admitted: 'I wasn't planning to go on leave for another three weeks so they will have to explain my sudden absence - maybe aliens will abduct Bianca! But they were very supportive and told me their only concern was for me and my baby's health.'

Channel Five's ill-fated teatime magazine show Live from Studio Five will be axed next month - although, sadly, not with an actual axe - as owner Richard Desmond looks to a TV spin-off of his celebrity gossip magazine OK! to deliver some ratings magic. OK! TV will replace Live from Studio Five on Monday 14 February. It is expected to be backed by a big marketing campaign and heavy cross-promotion in Desmond's newspaper and magazine empire, including the Daily Lies and Daily Express. The new show is expected to be part of a wider channel rebrand to be launched on screen next month. Billed as 'an early evening news and entertainment show with a difference,' the difference being that it was shite, Live from Studio Five was launched to a great fanfare in September 2009 before the channel's sale by RTL to Desmond last year. But the Sky News-produced show was given a mauling by critics and failed to win over audiences, dipping to just two hundred thousand viewers two months after its launch. One of its original presenters, gobby Ian Wright, was dropped in August after Desmond bought Channel Five and its running time was cut in half. But the shake-up failed to save the show, which yesterday had an average audience of three hundred thousand. Another of its original presenting line-up, Melinda Messenger, left in March last year, with the show now presented by Jayne Middlemiss and Apprentice runner-up Kate Walsh. Desmond has been in talks with the show's producer, Sky News, about ending its nine-million-pounds-a-year, five-year contract to supply the broadcaster's news bulletins. About fifty Sky staff work on Five News and Live from Studio Five. It will not be the first time OK! has found its way on to the airwaves, but Desmond will be hoping it performs rather better than ITV's incarnation of OK! TV eleven years ago, which was cancelled after just one series. OK! TV, which was billed as the first real trial for masthead publishing, never returned to ITV after Desmond fell out with the producer of the first series, Carlton Television. A second series was set to be produced by GMTV but it never made it to screen.

Details of John Nettles's final episode of ITV detective series Midsomer Murders have been revealed. Nettles's character, Tom Barnaby, will make his final appearance in Fit For Murder, which will be broadcast on Wednesday 2 February at 8pm. Nettles has played the role for over fourteen years and eighty episodes. Co-stars Jane Waymark and Laura Howard, who have played Barnaby's wife and daughter, will also bid farewell to the show next month. Guest stars in Fit For Murder will include Geraldine James, Lesley Manville, Jason Durr, Ronni Ancona and Shaun Dingwall. It will also feature the second appearance from Neil Dudgeon, who will take over as the lead in the show, playing John Barnaby, Tom's cousin. Jason Hughes will continue as sidekick Ben Jones. Speaking about his departure, Nettles said: 'I wanted to die in noble fashion in the service of my country and then be buried with full military honours in Westminster Abbey. In the event, Tom and his long-suffering wife Joyce will simply retire. It's always better to leave when people want more. Barnaby has been a great character to play; he's an island of calm surrounded by death and destruction. I think the hundreds of murders he has solved more than meets the targets of modern policing! It has been a joy to be involved in such a long-running series with so many good actors and great storylines. If Neil has half the good times that I have had on Midsomer, then he will be in seventh heaven. I am only worried that he is much younger than I am and a much better actor!' Two different endings have been filmed for Fit For Murder. The first one, which airs on the original broadcast, will feature Barnaby having a retirement party. During repeats, however, a different ending featuring a birthday celebration for the detective will be shown. The decision was made by producer Brian True-Mays, who wanted Nettles to 'live on in Midsomer.' True-Mays added: 'The departure of John Nettles from Midsomer Murders marks the end of an era, as the series grew from a single, pilot episode to become one of the best-known and most-watched TV dramas in the world. Although we will miss the huge contribution that John has made to the series, the brand of Midsomer is so strong that I am confident of its continuing success. We look forward to our new Barnaby tackling more murder and mayhem in Midsomer.'

Channel Four will take more risks in an attempt to find new hit shows to fill the gap left by Big Brother, its chief executive has pledged. David Abraham said money previously spent on the reality show was now available for experimental new shows. Money has gone into 'documentaries and factual as well as entertainment and drama,' he told the Nations and Regions Media Conference in Salford. He added that advertising revenue had also 'picked up reasonably robustly.' The long-running reality game show, which came to an end in September, had been a summer staple on C4 since 2000. 'So what you'll see is this shift from a schedule that was - for at least a third of the year - very dominated by Big Brother to one where all of these genres, and all of the commissioners in the genres, have got more opportunities to take risks and to experiment.' Abraham, who moved from UKTV to Channel Four last year, was joined last week by Channel Four's new chief creative officer, Jay Hunt - previously controller of BBC1. 'The creative renewal process starts this week,' he told delegates. 'This is really the first few weeks of the post-Big Brother era, although it's been talked about for two or three years. We are now managing the new reality of the post-Big Brother era at Channel Four.' There was 'too much of the same old - not enough adventure, surprise, shock, difference' on TV today, he added. Defending Million Pound Drop, Channel Four's current prime time game show, fronted by former Big Brother host Davina McCall, Abraham said: 'We are trying to do new things. Big Brother, at the end of the day, did occupy the central part of the schedule. I think it works very well and it's rating pretty well.' Last year, the channel introduced a new docu-soap Seven Days, in which viewers were able to follow the lives of people in London's Notting Hill as they happened. But the show failed to engage with viewers in the same way Big Brother did. Abraham also announced a new drive to spot grass roots talent in the industry - with some two million pounds made available through the Alpha Fund. Abraham said commissioners wanted to 'reopen our late night schedule to more dynamic content.'

Bill Paxton has revealed that he is relieved that he has finished filming the fifth and final season of Big Love. Paxton, who plays Bill Henrickson, told the Los Angeles Times that shooting the show was 'intense. [I'm] relieved,' he said. 'Relieved I got through the season in one piece. It's a very hard role to perform for six months every year. This season took it to another level.' Paxton admitted that playing Bill was tiring, saying: 'It wears you out. There was a time between this season and last season when I thought, "I just don't have the stamina to do this." I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, but there's a point where your body just says, "Hey, I've had enough."' However, Paxton revealed that he would have been 'glad' to have filmed a sixth season if HBO hadn't cancelled the show. 'I think it was probably the greatest thing I was ever involved in as an actor, besides a couple of film roles I've done,' he said. What you mean like Aliens and Apollo 13 and stuff like that? 'It's the first time I ever got to do an ongoing character. It was wonderful to get into the kind of complexity and depth you can get into with a long-form serial like this.'

Sky has today confirmed a reshuffle of its electronic programme guide, including new channel slots for MTV and Syfy, along with a high definition 'channel swap' system aimed at increasing HD usage. On 1 February, the satellite broadcaster will launch the biggest single update to its channel line-up in over a decade as part of efforts to 'make it even easier for customers to discover and enjoy the best in pay television.' The most significant change is the new HD 'channel swap' system for Sky+ HD homes, which will see selected HD channels gain greater prominence on the EPG. Under the system, around forty channels in Sky's HD pack will 'swap' positions on the EPG with their standard definition counterparts. For example, anyone pressing channel 106 will find Sky 1 HD, as the channel's SD version will move to channel 170. The change is primarily aimed at ensuring Sky+ HD subscribers make the most of the HD channels available to them. However, various channels have opted out of the system, including all the main terrestrial networks, along with Discovery HD, Eurosport HD, MGM HD and MTVN HD. Other changes to be introduced by Sky include MTV, Comedy Central, Universal, Syfy and FX being given higher profile channel slots in the entertainment section of the EPG. Comedy Central move from channel 126 to 112, and Universal will relocate from 130 to 113. Syfy will shift to channel 114 from 129, FX will upgrade to 124 from 164 and MTV will move to 126 from 350, reclassifying the network as a general entertainment channel. Sky will also create a new entertainment trio featuring Sky1 HD at channel 106, Sky Living (formerly the Living channel) at 107 and the big budget Sky Atlantic channel at 108. Rob Webster, Sky's Commercial Director, said: 'We want our customers to be able to discover and enjoy the content they are most passionate about. That's why we've worked with a range of partner channels to ensure that customers can find their favourite pay-TV channels and programming as easily as possible. And with high definition viewing now demanded as standard, this has also meant swapping HD channels into the EPG numbers that our customers know best. The combination of high quality content, an intuitive, easy-to-use EPG, and innovative services like Sky+ HD and Sky Anytime+, means our customers benefit from real choice, control and flexibility of viewing, whether linear or on-demand.' Celebrating the EPG reshuffle, FOX International Channels UK managing director Jason Thorp said: 'FX has consistently delivered high quality exclusive content worthy of any channel on the first page of the EPG but from a disadvantaged position. With FX at channel 124 a far wider audience will now be exposed to great first run shows such as True Blood, Walking Dead and Eastbound and Down. We now have the platform to consolidate and grow the brand's position as one of the key drivers in pay-TV.' MTVN executive vice president David Lynn said: 'These EPG moves are a great coup for MTV Networks UK. Not only do they reinforce the strength of the MTV Network brands in the UK in helping increase value for Sky customers, they also demonstrate the value of the brands in helping differentiate pay TV. With our channels higher placed on the EPG, viewers will have an easier and better content discovery experience.'

CBS president Nina Tassler has announced that the futures of CSI: Miami and CSI: NY are secure. Both shows were recently moved to new slots, but Tassler told reporters at the TCA press tour that neither series is in danger of cancellation. 'Both are doing incredibly well in new time periods, given what was there before,' she insisted. 'As long as those shows continue to be competitive and as long as fans continue to watch those shows, they'll continue to stay on the air.' She also claimed that a renewed focus on character development has helped to keep the two shows fresh. 'Both shows have opened up more to reveal the more personal elements of [characters'] lives,' she suggested. 'Add in the Sela Ward character on CSI: NY this year and I think we certainly know from audiences and from research that people were interested in her personal life.'

Simon Cowell's glamorous life is set to get the satirical treatment in a spoof novel of sudden downfall by author Bill Coles, a former political correspondent of the Sun. Simon Cowell: The Sex Factor sees the impresario attacked by a crazed fan at a glamorous party for the world's richest people. He wakes in a hospital morgue, with the world believing him dead, and then – penniless, and shunned by his former celebrity friends – heads off on a pilgrimage to Tibet in a search for meaning. The book takes Cowell 'on a quest for love; a quest for money; and a quest to get back his elusive mojo – the Sex Factor,' we are told. Legend Press, which is publishing the book in April, is hailing it as the dawn of a new genre – the 'spovel' – calling it 'the perfect antidote to celebrity memoirs.' And, given the Christmas clean-up conducted by A Simples Life, the memoir of the fictional meerkat from the television adverts, maybe this is another route to making publishing money out of the overwhelming influence of TV popular culture. Author Coles has form anyway, having already penned Dave Cameron's Schooldays, the – entirely fictional – story of the prime minister's early life as a porn-dealer and paparazzo in his first year at Eton, a book described as 'charming and uplifting' by none other than Cowell's fellow Britain's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan. One imagines that Die, You Oily Twat: The Vicious and Horrible Murder of Piers Morgan by ... somebody can't be very far away.

Sam Witwer has suggested that some viewers may react angrily to Syfy's version of Being Human. The actor, who plays vampire Aidan in the remake, told Collider that he is expecting a backlash from fans of the BBC original. 'It would be nice to say that we can count on the British audience coming over to us, but I don't think we can,' he explained. 'I just don't think they're going to readily accept it that quickly. [Fans are] going to see people playing versions of the characters that they know and love, and they're going to have a hard time accepting that.' He added: 'Don't tune in, if you really think it's going to be that terrible. But the simple fact of the matter is that nothing that we're doing is going to negate what the British series has done.' Witwer argued that critics might reassess the US version of the show in the future. 'There are going to be a lot of people who just talk shit, and they're going to be very angry that this was done in a North American way at all,' he suggested. 'I'm more concerned with what people are going to be saying a year from now, or half a year from now, once it's settled in a bit.' That is always assuming that the US version lasts that long.

Michael McIntyre was involved in what was described as 'an unfortunate mix-up' with a Britain's Got Talent make-up artist at auditions last week. The stand-up comic apparently misheard a comment made by the woman and believed that she wanted him to expose his genitalia. According to the Daily Lies, McIntyre thought the girl said: 'Let's have a look at your cock."'However, what she actually asked was: 'Let's 'ave a look at you, cock.'

It is the sort of salacious revelation that appears in the pages of celebrity magazines, but would rarely warrant a mention on the Today programme. But Justin Webb, a presenter on Radio 4's breakfast news show, has surprised colleagues by using an article in the Radio Times to admit he is the product of an affair his mother conducted with Peter Woods, the TV reporter and newsreader who was a household name in the 1960s and 70s. Webb used the article, published this week, to write that Woods had an affair with his mother, Gloria Crocombe, while they both worked at the Daily Mirror. Woods moved to the BBC in 1960, one of the first print journalists to make a successful transition to the screen, and also worked for ITN during a long and successful career. He retired in 1981 and died in 1995. Webb, previously the BBC's Washington correspondent, was told about his father's identity at a young age but said he never contacted Woods, even when he chose to follow the same career. 'I cannot even remember wanting to tell anyone, it was that deeply buried,' he writes. 'And when I left university and wanted to join the BBC, I applied for a traineeship. He was by then retired but very much alive, and I can honestly say that I never thought of making contact. I built my career without consciously aping his; without giving him much of a thought.' Webb told the Gruniad Morning Star that not knowing his father had not affected him. 'You know how it is as a child; you just accept things,' he said. He added his hand had been forced because he suspected the story of his father's identity, although not widely known, may have been sold to a tabloid newspaper. 'I know there's someone who knows and he's toyed in the past with flogging the story,' he said. Webb, aged fifty, added: 'If you are older than me you remember [Woods] well, because in the 70s there weren't too many [TV journalists] and they were very famous. People would swoon when they walked past – including my mother.' Webb, whose mother was sacked from her Mirror job as a secretary after she became pregnant by Woods, said he thought Woods, who married twice, had behaved badly and 'caused a lot of trouble for his own family.' He said was willing to talk about him publicly partly because Woods' ex-wife and Webb's own mother are now also dead. Woods is best remembered for slurring his words at the end of BBC news bulletin in 1976, which prompted the corporation to end the broadcast suddenly. 'It was almost as bad as saying the 'C' word on the Today programme,' Webb said, referring to a more recent on air-gaffe when his co-presenter Jim Naughtie memorably used a four-letter word to refer to the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt live on air last year after mixing up his words.

For yer Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day today, we have six little gems from one of first great independent record labels, Immediate Records, which was started in 1965 by the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Among the acts signed to the label over the next five years were Rod Stewart, PP Arnold, Billy Nicholls, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, The Groundhogs, The Small Faces, The Nice, Amen Corner, Chris Farlowe, Duncan Browne and Humble Pie. Due to financial problems, the label ceased operations around 1970 and it has been the subject of some controversy ever since. This is especially true regarding unpaid royalties owing to The Small Faces, who were Immediate's biggest grossing artists between 1967 and 1969. Despite their success, the band received virtually no income from these often re-released recordings, until legal action finally secured payments from the present licencees in the early 2000s. So, here's six of the best from Immediate, dear blog reader. Starting with the label's first single, from 1965. And it's a cracker. Immediate's first British number one was Chris Farlowe's cover of Mick and Keef's 'Out of Time,' one of a number of a great records that Chris made for the label. Including this which is now pretty much a standard. The label's great female chanteuse was the extraordinary PP Arnold whose biggest hit - seen here on Beat Club - was also to become something of a standard. PP also sang backing vocals on the label's greatest ever release, and one that has many claims to being one of the finest records ever made by anyone, anywhere. And, by the way, watching that clip of Steve Marriott, now you know where Paul Weller learned every single stage-move in his arsenal! Meanwhile, Welsh pop group Amen Corner joined Immediate in late 1968 and their first single for the label was another number one hit. (I particularly like this clip from Beat Club as Andy Fairweather-Lowe looks about twelve on it!)Originally formed as PP Arnold's live backing group, The Nice's career was once summed up, beautifully, by the late John Peel. 'I used to love a band called The Nice,' he once said. 'They were really good. Then, they turned into Emerson Lake and Palmer. Who weren't!' This, ladies and gentlemen, is America. Careful with them knives, bonny lad!